HC Deb 28 March 1859 vol 153 cc1004-10

I wish to take this earliest opportunity of calling attention to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman(Sir John Pakington), which it is due to you, Sir, should receive the earliest notice, and which, if unnoticed, would, I think, be calculated to mislead the House on an important point. The right hon. Gentleman said, that having consulted "the highest authority" as to the rules and practice of this House, he was authorized to state that the Resolution moved by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London as an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading of this Bill is unparliamentary and irregular. But I have the best reason for believing that the right hon. Gentleman made that statement under a total misapprehension. You, Sir, being "the highest authority" in this House, there is no doubt that if you, sitting in that chair and presiding over the deliberations of the House had had placed in your hands a Motion which was unparliamentary and irregular, you would, in the performance of the duty which you so ably perform, have refused to put it. The right hon. Gentleman must have spoken under a total misapprehension, for there can be no "higher authority" in this House than you, Sir, our Speaker. But if the right hon. Gentleman refer to any other authority I must deprecate in the strongest terms any such reference, as this House does not recognize any other authority than yours in regulating our proceedings. I shall be glad, therefore if you, Sir, will favour us with your opinion whether the Resolution of my noble Friend is unparliamentary and irregular.


I am very much indebted to the right hon. Baronet for having called my attention to the expression, and thus giving me an opportunity of explaining it. It was very far from my intention to convey any such meaning as that which has been placed upon my words. I did not for a moment mean to convey that I had received from you any opinion on this subject; and if the expression "the highest authority" escaped my lips it did so inadvertently. If by that expression I was understood to refer to one Speaker, I now state, in the most distinct manner, that I intended no reference to the right hon. Gentleman in the chair; and if anything fell from me which intimated that word "highest authority" was not applicable to you only, I most readily apologise for it. What I intended to convey was, that I had serious doubts as to whether the Resolution was in accordance with the regularity of parliamentary proceedings; and that I had referred—out of doors—to what I considered high authorities; and the result was the opinion which. I expressed, that this proceeding on the part of the noble Lord was, to say the least, irregular and inconsistent with the usual practice of Parliament. If I were asked the question, I should certainly say most distinctly that it is competent for the Speaker to put the Resolution. Whether it was originally within the general practice of Parliament to move such an Amendment I cannot say; but I certainly think that inasmuch as the subject matter of the Resolution is germane to the subject of the Bill, it would not be competent to the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair to refuse to put it. I hope this will he a sufficient explanation both to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House.


—After the appeal which has been made to me, I trust the House will permit mo to say a few words upon the subject of this form of proceeding by Resolution. The power of moving Resolutions by way of Amendments, instead of being expanded by modern practice, has, in truth, been greatly limited and restricted. it was correctly said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle in the course of his speech this evening, that in the early days of his Parliamentary career it was competent to any Member, on the Motion that the Orders of the Day be proceeded with, to move an Amendment on any subject, not relevant even to the subject of any one of the Orders of the Day set down for consideration. That power was most properly restricted, in order to promote the conduct of business; but if any hon. Gentleman will consult the Journals of the House he will find that during the time of my immediate predecessor in this chair—and he was very careful to keep the proceedings of this House within correct bounds—it happened that not less than between forty and fifty Resolutions, by way of Amendments, wore put by him from this chair. It certainly would have been my duty, if this Resolution had been irregular, before putting it from the chair to have called the attention of the House to it. As the question has now been asked of me, I can have no hesitation in declaring that, in point of order and regularity, it is not possible to take exception to the form of the Resolution which is now proposed.


said, he was sorry to interfere between the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the House, but be thought that the question had been now very fully debated, and unless there was some kind of understanding that it would be finished soon he should be compelled to divide the House on the question of the adjournment of the debate. For what he could see, hon. Gentlemen were ready to go on till Christmas talking on this question of Reform.


I wish to take this opportunity of making a short explanation on a point on which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland made some remarks, I am told, in the early part of the evening. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I am told, in reference to an explanation which I made on Friday night, in answer to some parts of his speech which referred to the affairs of Italy in 1849, asserted to-night that upon further inquiry he had found that his original statement was perfectly correct. I have not had the opportunity of referring to documents; but, speaking from memory, I wish to say that the proposal which Baron Hummelauer stated to me he was authorized to make was, that Lombardy should be erected into a separate Duchy under an Austrian Archduke in connection with the Austrian empire. At that time the Austrians were entirely out of Lombardy; it was in possession of the Sardinian and the other Italian troops. I said to him that of course the English Government had no power to determine upon those matters; if we were asked, all we could do was to give advice to the King of Sardinia, who at that time was the principal agent in these transactions, and to recommend any arrangement which we thought might be satisfactory to all parties; but I said that was an arrangement which it would be idle to propose; that it was not likely that the King of Sardinia would evacuate Lombardy for the purpose of restoring it to the Austrians. He replied that that was what he was ordered to propose, but that he would undertake to go back to Vienna and would recommend an arrangement which might have the effect of rendering Lombardy an independent State, altogether dissevered from the Austrian empire. I said that that no doubt was a great step in advance; but he must recollect that Venice and part of the Venetian territory were at that moment also in a state of practical independence, that armies were marching from all parts of Italy to co-operate with the King of Sardinia for the purpose of freeing Northern Italy from the Austrian domination, and that it was very unlikely that any arrangement would be consented to by Sardinia which did not include in it some portion of the Venetian territory. The King of Sardinia, I said, was not a man likely to consent to any arrangement which would have the effect simply of adding to the territory of Sardinia, and would leave Venice to be restored to the dominion of Austria, which for the moment had been shaken off. Baron Hummelauer stated that he would return to Vienna, and submit to his Government the answer which I had made to his proposal; but before any result could arise things in Italy took a different turn, the Austrian Government having reconquered Lombardy by force of arms, determined by force of arms to retain it; and they then stated that the whole arrangement must be considered altogether at an end.


The statement of the noble Lord does not at all affect the truth of what I stated. I have referred to the papers, for I took a great interest in the question at the time, and the House may well conceive that communications respecting the future destinies of kingdoms were not allowed to rest on vague conversation. The fact is, that Lord Ponsonby apprised the noble Lord by a communication from Vienna that the Royal family of Austria were inclined to give up Lombardy, provided an arrangement could be made by which Lombardy should take a fair share of the public debt, and the noble Lord was also apprised that Baron Hummelauer was coming to England to endeavour to make arrangements for that purpose. The noble Lord is quite accurate in his statement, that the first proposition of the Austrian Government was, that Lombardy should have a separate administration—a separate Government—and that would have been a great step gained—a national army, and a Government which would be acceptable to the people; but, as has been truly stated by the noble Lord, that as Modena and Parma should be thrown into the bargain, that the future ruler should be a member of the Austrian Royal family. To such a proposal the noble Lord, as he says, objected, and he seems to have forgotten that Baron Hummelaur wrote, as the result of his interviews with the noble Lord, and of the impression made upon him by the statements of the noble Lord, that he thought it right to state the principles on the basis of which a new arrangement might be made, and he enclosed that statement of principles, the very first paragraph of which was, that Lombardy should be free and independent, that she should choose her own Government without the control of Austria, if England would consent to settle the affairs of Italy on this basis. I agree with the noble Lord that the paper proceeds to say that the same terms would not be offered to Venice—Austria could not give up Venice—but it was proposed that she should have a separate administration and a separate army. The noble Lord took from the 23rd May to the 3rd of June to consider these propositions, and I venture to say that he then had a golden opportunity of settling the affairs of Italy, which may never again occur. On the 3rd of Juno he informed Baron Hummelauer that, so far as Lombardy was concerned, the terms were satisfactory; but he insisted that Venice should be thrown into the arrangement. That was refused. Then Austria proceeded to assert her rights by force of arms; and then in the month of August the noble Lord wrote to Lord Ponsonby to say that he was willing to settle the affairs of Italy upon the terms proposed in May. It was then too late—it has been always too late from that time—and I fear that this one golden opportunity having been neglected, it will be too late for the future.


understood that the hon. Member for Derby opposed the adjournment of the debate with the view of getting some decision as to its termination. The debate had now lasted five nights, and he thought it would he convenient to come to a general understanding that the debate should close to-morrow night.


objected to any such understanding. It was all very well for the great guns to go off night after night; but they should recollect that there were other Members who, though they were not of the same callibre, had constituents, and wished to justify the vote they were about to give to them, as it was probable they would soon appear before them. He was anxious to say a few words himself, and he hoped this debate would not close till he had had an opportunity.


was also one of the small guns that had been charged during the last two nights, and had not had an opportunity of going oft'. He was bound to say that, as the debate had gone on, he had found hour by hour that the points he had intended to dwell upon had been taken up by others; and, therefore, with the modesty which ought to belong to him, he was willing to let the debate come to a close without intruding his opinions.


wished to ask whether this was part of the system which the noble Lord wished to exercise over the House on Friday nights? whether he was now beginning to exercise a tyranny over the House? He was willing to stop till Christmas, but he intended to have an opportunity of speaking.


said, that the subject was one of such universal interest that the debate ought not be hurried to a conclusion.


said, as the City of York, which he represented, contained 1,100 county voters, he could not forego his claim to be heard in explanation of his views.


said, he had entertained an earnest expectation that the debate would close on the following day—but he must say that this was a subject and an occasion for consulting the general feeling of the House, and he had no wish to press for the termination of the debate in opposition to that feeling. There seemed to be an equal indisposition on the two sides of the House that the debate should close the next day, and he would not, therefore, press for its termination, although he was perfectly prepared for it if the House desired that it should terminate.


said, up to that time not a single Irish Member had spoken.

Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.